We met Jan Seidel (left) and Loretta Kimball on Saturday, when we stopped by Saturday’s Arbor Heights Block Party to find out more about a new “community playground proposal” mentioned on the party-promoting flyer. They are the force behind a proposal to create a playground on a plot of Arbor Heights Community Church land just west of the church (map). It’s not just a church project; they’re pursuing a community partnership – read on for more of what we found out:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though updated stats aren’t easy to find, anecdotally it’s easy to observe that West Seattle has more families with kids these days than it did a few years ago — preschool/kindergarten attendance is bulging, for example. The increased school-age population has inspired grassroots quests to find more places for those kids to play, particularly as density grows and private yards shrink (if you ever had one in the first place – we always wondered how our 1941 house wound up with a 4200-sf lot!).
Those citizen-led efforts are scoring successes: Just last week, we reported on city matching-funds grants for the community groups working to add a “tot lot” to Cottage Grove Park in North Delridge and a potential “play area” to the California Place mini-park in North Admiral. And families from all over the residential areas near The Junction can be found enjoying the new playground at Ercolini Park, dedicated just last month. Citizen campaigns also have led to major improvements at some West Seattle school playgrounds, including Gatewood Elementary and Lafayette Elementary.
For families in Arbor Heights, AH Elementary is the major playground option, but the folks at Arbor Heights Community Church are hoping to change that, with a proposal for this undeveloped lot (8,000 square feet, per county records):
“Kids play here anyway, so why not provide the space?” explains project co-organizer Loretta Kimball. She was stationed next to the project display at the church-sponsored Block Party on Saturday, answering questions and explaining the idea.
You might have noticed the name “ARK Park” in the display shown behind her and co-organizer Jan Seidel in the photo atop this report. Not only is that the type of ark reference you might expect given the church connection, but it is also a memorial – Kimball explains that the park/playground is intended as a tribute to a baby in the AHCC congregation who died; her initials were ARK.
The proposed design would include small “arks” as well, and they’re hoping to surround the play features with the same kind of cushiony material used at the renovated Whale Tail Park in Alki (see a photo on the city’s WTP webpage) – also, like Whale Tail, in colors that simulate water. They’re also hoping to create play spaces for each of two age groups, 2-5 year-olds and 6-12 year-olds. If the eventual funding doesn’t allow that to happen all at once at the start, Kimball says, the project could be done in phases.
It’s not just about play areas – she envisions “nice benches” too, for the many neighbors who walk in the area already.
One major difference between this project and the ones we have covered recently — so far, they are not expecting to get the city involved with funding; this is expected to be between the church and the community. (City permits would be required, of course, as is the case for any sort of construction project.)
Funding is one of the topics they plan to discuss at an upcoming community meeting, to which you and anyone else interested in the ARK Park project is invited: 7 pm September 15th, basement auditorium at the church (10213 41st SW; map).
Depending on what happens from here, Kimball says they’re hoping for groundbreaking next March, completion next June, just in time for Summer 2009 – and maybe a different look for the site of future block parties like the one on Saturday (photo taken from the middle of the proposed park site, looking east toward the church):
If you’re interested in finding out more about the project before the 9/15 community meeting, you can contact the church through its website at arborheights.org.